image[Ed October 20, 2014.  In honor of the 80th anniversary of the Michigan-Georgia Tech game played on October 20, 1934, a repost on the campus protests leading up to this low point in Michigan football lore.  Original posted April 2009.]

The early 1930s are a fascinating stretch in Michigan football history and I’ve written much on the highs and lows of that period in eBay Watch and elsewhere.  A relative recently asked me which story from Michigan history was the most interesting to me, and the first thing that came to mind was the Willis Ward incident of 1934.  I’ve hit on it in Hail to the Victors 2008, in a few posts here, in a guest post on mgoblog, and even on WTKA radio with John U. Bacon.

This week an eBay auction got me thinking about the incident once again.  A seller is offering a pic of Ward (above) which is described to be an original wire photo.  The bidding started at $9.75.

Here’s a quick debrief on the controversy leading up to the game with Georgia Tech, as summarized in my mgo-guest post from earlier this year:

During the miserable 1934 season, controversy erupted prior to the scheduled game against Georgia Tech as the Yellow Jacket officials made it clear they would not take the field against a black player.  Protests ensued on campus and within the team (it’s rumored that [Gerald] Ford threatened to quit).  I’ve read that future famous playwright Arthur Miller, who was on the Daily staff at the time, tried to intervene.   Eventually the game was played without Ward and resulted in a 9-2 Michigan win.  [For more, here’s a Daily article from 1999, and Ward’s Wikipedia page.]

One correction:  I don’t think Miller was on the Daily staff in 1934 (he’s not listed on the directory in the ‘34 paper) although he did write for the Daily during his stay at Michigan and apparently did try to intervene with the Georgia Tech players.   Ward’s Wikipedia entry cites a story from a Miller biography explaining the future playwright’s role in the drama:

In his biography of Miller, Enoch Brater noted that Miller had friends from Arkansas who knew one of the Georgia Tech players. Brater described Miller’s involvement this way: “Remmel [Miller’s friend from Arkansas] took Miller with them to meet with members of the team, to protest but also to appeal to the athletes’ sense of fair play. ‘Miller was right in the middle of this’, Remmel recalls. Not only did the visiting team rebuff ‘the Yankee’ Miller ‘in salty language’, but they told him they would actually kill Ward if he set one foot on the Michigan gridiron. ‘The Georgia Tech team was wild.’ Miller was furious. He ‘went immediately to the office of the Michigan Daily and wrote an article about it, but it was not published.’

It’s a fascinating story and as I mentioned as an mgo-guest, it deserves a full documentary or movie.  One of the reasons I don’t think it’s been talked about very much is that the events didn’t exactly put Georgia Tech or Michigan in a favorable light, as Ward didn’t play in the game.**

The Protests
Despite mentioning the story in a few places, I really haven’t taken a deep dive.  I recently stopped by the Bentley Library and looked through some of the pages of The Daily in the days around the October 20, 1934 game against the Yellow Jackets.

As a student paper should do, their words focused on the situation on campus and it’s a pretty interesting tale.   Upon learning of the demand by Tech that Ward not play in the game, a group of students formed the ‘Ward United Front Committee’ and collected 1,500 signatures supporting their cause.  The petition read:

“We, the undersigned, declare ourselves unalterably opposed to the racial discrimination evidenced in the proposed exclusion of Willis Ward from the Georgia Tech game.  We support the slogan: Either Ward plays or the game must be cancelled.”

The United Front even reached out to quarterback Benny Friedman, who was coaching at the City College of New York at the time, hoping the legend would tender a statement in support of the cause.

The group scheduled a meeting for the Friday night (10/19) before the game, a time typically reserved for pep rallies.  The Daily wrote the meeting was called with “the purpose of  crystallizing sentiment on the Ward affair.”

The meeting, held inside the packed Natural Science Auditorium, was ugly. Daily writer Bernard Weismann described the scene:

Smoldering feelings on the question of Willis Ward’s participation in the Georgia Tech game burst into flame last night at what was probably the wildest and strangest Friday night rally in Michigan’s history.

Speakers on both sides of the debate tried to weigh in on the controversy only to be heckled by the other side.  The chairman of the event, Abner Morton, took the stage but was overwhelmed by “boos, clapping and ‘wisecracks’”.

Next up was a professor named Harold J. McFarlan who was forced to dodge “coins that were tossed at the speaker” along with the catcalls, and eventually he just walk off stage.   Morton then returned and challenged his hecklers to bring up a representative to speak their piece, which prompted “taunts of ‘yellow’” from the other side of the crowd.

Finally someone from the opposition group stepped up and argued that it wasn’t right to require Ward to play especially if he could be injured by the Tech players, and further, that the coaches had earned the right to say whether Ward should be exposed to potential harm.  The shouts and taunts from the crowd continued.

Breaking the hysteria was a gent named Sher Quraishi (fact: he’s the founder of that co-op house on State Street that stands today) who decided to tear everyone a collective new one:

[Quraishi] was the first to obtain a semblance of attention from the entire audience.  He branded the audience a “bunch of fools,” unable to learn from the mistakes of others.  “You with the advantage of a university education can’t even allow a meeting to be held until you are bawled out.”

Snap!  Things settled down after that and many left the meeting before it concluded.  Those who stayed agreed to formally protest the scheduling of the Jackets by the the university’s Board in Control of Athletics.

The Deal
The day of the game The Daily printed quotes from the key administrators in the athletic department.  Legendary coach and acting athletic director Fielding Yost told reporters, “I haven’t anything to do with it,” when asked whether Ward would play.   Chairman of the Board of Athletics Ralph Aigler echoed the sidestep as well, saying, “In the 22 years I have been a member of the athletic board, I have never had anything to say about who played; I am not going to begin now.”

Ward himself was reached and referred the questions to coach Harry Kipke saying, “I haven’t anything to say about it, you had better call the coach.”   An attempt to get a comment from coach Kipke at his home and at Barton Hills Country Club (where the team stayed before the game) failed.

A deal was struck before the game, and we know that Georgia Tech coach Bill Alexander agreed to hold out his regular starting end Emmett ‘Hoot’ Gibson.  There are a few accounts describing an all-night debate between Alexander and Yost (although Yost is incorrectly referred to as Michigan’s coach in many versions), and I’ve also heard that Gibson never forgave his coach for agreeing to such a deal.

There are various accounts in his Wikipedia entry as to where Ward resided during the actual game.  The Daily is pretty specific: he watched the game from the press box, sheltered from the “downpour which started with the opening kickoff and continued intermittently all afternoon.”   The Chicago Tribune also placed Ward and Franklin Lett ( another African American who is on the extended 1934 team roster but not in the team photo)  in the press box, specifically within the “broadcasting booths.”

Parting Shots
Several beautifully composed letters were printed in the Daily in the days after the game, generally venting their disgust over the entire incident: from the behavior on the students, to the actions of the athletic department for scheduling this game, to the Michigan Daily for its coverage and editorials.

Here’s an excerpt of one student’s view of the Friday meeting, describing some of the behavior as “Hitleristic” (keep in mind this was 1934):

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One note, submitted by five students, was particularly poignant.  It blasted The Daily for its coverage of the controversy.  Two small excerpts, here’s the first:

image

And in further ripping the Daily, a few excellent questions for the athletic department:

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Aftermath
Despite the sharp criticism of The Daily leveled by the missive above, the paper definitely did a fine job covering the temperature on campus that week.   Should they have dug deeper into some of the questions raised in the letters?  Probably, but I’m not clear on the type of access or control that they possessed at the time.  I don’t know if Arthur Miller’s draft piece still exists, but it would be fascinating to see what he wrote after facing the Tech players.  Was it squashed by the Daily brass?

In its editorial wrapping up the incident (and this was mentioned in the 1999 Daily piece on Ward as well as in his Wikipedia page), the Daily wrote:

“It was the peculiar characteristic of the Ward-Georgia Tech matter that everyone who touched it did so only to lose in respect and esteem.”

The auction of the Ward photo ends April 30th.

**Update:  This point (that we don’t hear about the stories where ‘good’ didn’t triumph) expressed better by The Joe Cribbs Car Wash:

For the past few years, one of the most tried-and-true feature story tactics from the likes of ESPN has been the “team from the earlier part of the century heroically stands up against discrimination.” I mean, who doesn’t love one of those stories? Easy journalistic money.

Of course, you don’t ever hear about about the stories where teams had the chance to take a similar stand and didn’t..

Related:
Yost’s Warning to you Drunks (1933)
1933 and the Dickinson Formula
1933 MSC Ticket Application
Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
Smoke ‘em if you Got ‘em (1935-ish)

08. October 2014 · Comments Off on Charity Shmarity (1931) | The Charity Game at Michigan Stadium · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

[Ed. With the talk of boycotting Saturday’s game (or at least the kickoff), a repost.  It’s not the first time there was talk on campus of boycotting a home game, although the circumstances in 1931 were quite different. Originally published in July 2011.]

1931

I rarely feature ticket stubs on eBay Watch but this one is pretty unique.  In 1931 the Western Conference agreed to schedule a full slate of games to benefit a fund for the many Depression-era unemployed worker at the end of the season.   The league also agreed the games would count in the tight conference standings.

A full unused ticket to the game between the Wolverines and Wisconsin on November 28, 1931 went up on on eBay:

Wisconsin Ticket Stub
Check out the backdrop of the stub with the football player tossing a bag of loot (“A Forward Pass”) to the mass of needy onlookers with arms outstretched.

It’s actually not a shock that this ticket appears to be unused given the story of this one.  Charity be damned, barely 9,000 fans (some reports say only 7,000) bothered to show up for the game.  This ticket sold for $1, others went for $2.  Regular season ducats went for between $2-$3 that season.

Why the poor turnout?

Well, it seems that early in the process of determining the match-ups for the charity games, it was decided that Michigan would square off in the Big House against Northwestern.  The teams had shared the conference crown in 1930 and were near the top of the standings again.  Thinking they could raise more money by putting Northwestern in Chicago’s Solider Field, a couple weeks before the date they changed course and pitted the Wildcats against Purdue. Michigan was left with Wisconsin.

unemployment

Everyone in Ann Arbor – from Fielding Yost to the editors of the Michigan Daily — went berserk.   After the Badgers were assigned, director Yost told reporters, “This whole thing has been such mess that I won’t even venture a conservative guess on how many will turn out.  It won’t be many.”

The Daily suggested a boycott.  Students were quoted saying they “wouldn’t give a nickel” or even “cross the street” to see a weak Wisconsin squad.

Ironically the biggest benefactor of the whole event, which raised $154,000, might have been Michigan.  Northwestern ended up losing to Purdue 7-0, so those who watched Michigan defeat Wisconsin 16-0 actually saw them earn a share of the league title.

The Wisconsin win propelled Michigan into the next two championship seasons when Kipke and crew won back-to-back national titles in 1932 and 1933.

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UGP

For those out of town, a few pics outside the Schembechler Hall renovation, scheduled to re-open in April:

State Street view

Corner facade from State St – note the block M in stone on the corner.

 

Entrance full

A view of the entrance from State St..

 

Schembechler Hall cornerstone

  Cornerstone is in – what did they put inside?   Singing frog named Michigan J.?

Michigan J Frog

 

Facade

The glass wrap-around from the sidewalk

 Fritz Crisler on Tradition

Epic quote from Fritz Crisler on the Michigan tradition behind the blue Ladder of Shame, highlighting historic lowlights.

  Those Who Stay

Those Who Stay Will Be Champions – etched in stone greets everyone at the main entrance.

 Tower of Pigskins

The Righteous Tower of Victory Pigskins – this wraps around inside.   Looks like they are numbered and I assume they signify each football win in history (yes, there are enough of them to do that).

 

 Wall of Champions The Wall of Greats – a collection of great players, coaches, teams and moments.

 

Related:
Brandon’s Blog on the Renovation
Schembechler Hall is Falling Down (early renovation shots)
More 2013 photos from Maize and Blue News

 

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I don’t if Harry Kipke liked to be photographed, or whether the press chased him around a lot but, brother, there are always a lot of interesting photos of the former Michigan All-American player and coach on eBay.  

Vacation Kipke and Sarazen Kipke Saling

Just right now you can find photos of Kipke in scenes that have nothing to do with football—[left to right above] on vacation with his wife in Florida chilling in a bathrobe, hanging out with golfing legend Gene Sarazen, and most frequently, Kipke on his boat sailing or hanging out with other people who love to sail.  I don’t know if there are any Kipke family historians out there, but I’m guessing you can piece together Kipke’s life (certainly in the 1930s and 1940s) through solely the lens of newspaper wire photos that pop up on eBay.

Here’s my favorite and this might end up in my man cave.kipke_son_ebay

Taken in May 1935 (notably after the horrific ‘34 season), on the left that’s Kipke’s son holding what you have to assume is a leather Michigan helmet.  Kipke is kneeling in a sharp 3-piece suit with a flower tie as he tangles with two baby lions at his feet.   Harry’s no fool—note the protective oven mitts. 

So what’s the deal with all of this?   First, chalk this up to a day in the life of Harry Kipke, who clearly had photographers wherever he went.   I scanned the free newspaper archives but couldn’t find anything.   If I had to guess, Kipke and his son are at an event, perhaps a graduation party or something, at the estate of his pal Harry Bennett.  As posted on these pages before, Bennett was Henry Ford’s enforcer and lived off Geddes road near town, and yes, he was known to keep lions and tigers on the property.

Ships Wheel
While I’m on the topic of Kipke I have to share photo and note sent over by reader Bob.  First the photo:

shipswheel

Here’s the backstory from Bob:

Hi, I am looking for information on a item I bought from Harry Kipke’s estate. It is a very large ships wheel with a football welded to the center. It has gold leaf writing which says “Birthday greetings Harry Kipke”.   It was hanging at the bottom of the basement stairs going into the billiard room. It is said H.K. was good friends with Henry Ford, Roy Firestone and Tom Edison and they often hung out there…I was also told the wheel may have been a gift from one of the Ford’s (Henry or Gerald). The wheel is 52? tall and in great shape. What I would like to know is who gave it to him and what birthday did he receive it…It is a honor owning it but feel it should be in a place more people can see and enjoy it.  Any thoughts as to where it should go?  If so what’s it’s value?   A local guy says 5K plus but I just don’t know.

So first off, I have no idea how much something like this would be worth.   It’s one-of-a-kind and you’d have to find someone who’s interested in both sailing, history and Michigan football [mgoshoe?!] to even approach finding a price for this thing.  If someone’s got a truly unique collection this might look nice on the wall, but it is so tough to say.  For starters I’d want to know who gave it to Kipke, whether is an actual from a ship (or if was it created solely as a gift for Kipke—likely, given the football affixed in the center), and the manufacturer. 

Related:

* 1933 and the Dickinson Formula
* Harry Kipke and the Fall of 1934
* Jesse Owns and Gerald Ford (1934)
* The Willis Ward Protests (1934)

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Most people know the basics (or if you read this site, about everything you’d ever want to know) about the story of the Little Brown Jug.  To recap, back in 1903, Michigan and Minnesota’s powerful teams played in Minneapolis to a fiercely fought 6-6 tie.

jugoriginal

After the game the Wolverines left behind a five gallon stoneware water jug, purchased at a local store before the game.  Minnesota equipment manager Oscar Munson found it the following day or two and brought it to Director of Athletics L.J. Cooke.  In remembrance of their mighty tie they decided to give the jug its first paint job, scribing, “Michigan Jug – ‘Captured’ by Oscar, October 31, 1903,” on one side. On the opposite face they spelled out, SCORE, “Minnesota 6, Michigan 6,” making the Minnesota “6” three times larger than the Wolverines’ score.  Six years later Cooke and Michigan coach Fielding Yost agreed to play for the righteous crockery, something they’ve done 92 times now (if you count that 1903 game).

While the playing for the jug is of course one of the deepest and most replicated college football traditions, painting the jug actually is a practice that started before the teams even agreed to play for the pottery. After Cooke and Munson’s initial handicraft, the scores of the game have been painted on sometime after the game to this day.

The jug was split with two sides (Michigan on one, and Minnesota on the other) sometime after the 1919 contest.  The columns of scores were added in the 1920s, and it received a new design in the 1930s including a reformulated Minnesota block ‘M’ that we see today.  Eventually the four columns were inserted (two on each side) to hold all the scores of the games.

The Wolverines of course retained the jug this year after the dominant 58-0 triumph over the Gophers in Ann Arbor back in October.   As the final seconds ticked off, equipment manager Jon Falk handed the jug to the players who paraded the trophy around the field and over to the student section in the northwest corner of the Big House.

1 - molk and jug

After the game there was still one more bit of work to do before tucking the jug away for another season: the 58-0 score needed to be painted on.  For the past several decades, when the Wolverines win the crock, the primary owner of the honor of painting the score on the crock has been Jil Gordon, a local artist.

1 - gordon 1

Gordon was first involved with the football team back when her former husband Larry was a graduate assistant for Bo in the early 1970s.     Larry noticed that the team meeting room was bland and suggested to Bo and the other coaches that he had the solution—they agreed to let Jil spice it up.

“In the main meeting room, where they had the 8MM projector, right behind it, always was a theme for the season,” Gordon told me.  They asked Gordon to use her skills to decorate a wall each year, but she didn’t stop there.

“I’d do signs, all kinds of motivational posters,” she shared.   Gordon was even asked, on occasion, to do a few touch-ups around campus including the block ‘M’ above the tunnel in the Big House.

When it came to updating the score on the Little Brown Jug each season she was the natural choice, and she started after Falk’s first season in Ann Arbor in 1974.   After she moved out to California for a few years, Falk quickly restored her old duty she returned to live in Ann Arbor for good.

On the Monday morning following the big win over Minnesota this season Gordon was back at it.  In the Schembechler Hall equipment room, Falk placed the jug on a large, well-lit table. Jil carefully etched this year’s score first in a pencil outline.

1 - jil gordon 2

After an initial coat in black paint was allowed to dry for five minutes, Gordon went over the numbers one last time. Once it was done, Jon Falk tucked it away in a secret location in its specially-designed case for another year.

And for the most part, that’s it. There is the matter of the replica (often mistaken as the real trophy) that’s on display in the museum just inside Schembechler Hall. Gordon also typically paints that jug but this year when she was in doing the job on the official trophy, didn’t have the keys handy to open the display case.

She still does various touch-up jobs around the athletic campus and even paints the occasional honorary game ball for not only Coach Hoke (she did one with the ‘Under the Lights’ logo after the Notre Dame game), but also for Coach Beilein.

There are 92 scores painted on the jug dating back to 1903, including 67 Michigan wins, 22 for the Gophers, three ties (1903, 1933, and 1950) with just one slot remaining in the current four column configuration. So the big question remains: What will happen when we run out of space?

To steal Sam Webb’s phrase, my gut feeling is that if Michigan makes that call, Gordon and Falk will add some scores in the empty space above (and eventually below) the M logos for each team.   If anyone deserves to make that call it’s Falk and after all, it is technically Michigan’s jug—I’m sure there’s a receipt from 1903 somewhere.  This will cover us for many games to come and push off the big decision for a few decades.   We’ll find out what happens soon enough.

———————————————————————

Check out Jil’s website here (jilgordon.com).  Love the logos!  Gordon also designed the official Michigan M Vase and the Official M Carrier…because everything is better with the block M:

image

 

Ok, not a movie, but  here’s a very well produced piece about one of my favorite programs, Michigan ‘From The Heart’.   

From some background:  I got the pleasure to see the student athletes in action on a Thursday night up in the children’s floors of Mott Hospital (virtual double chest pound to Moundros, Omameh and Cronin—those guys are amazing).   I also golfed in their outing this summer out at the UM Golf Course – a great event.

This is great cause to get behind.  Here’s more about what they do:

 

More here:
Michigan From The Heart program (official site)
From the Heart Outing Recap
‘Michigan From the Heart’ Radio (04-22 WTKA audio)

Get gear:
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07. October 2011 · Comments Off on TWIMFBH – Crushing The Cadets and “Kramer of Michigan” (1955 – audio) · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , , ,

This Week in Michigan Football takes a look back to Saturday October 8, 1955, when Michigan took on Army in front of 97,000 at the Big House.

Michigan prevailed that day 26-2 for its first win over Army.  I touch on the game but talk a bit about the legend Ron Kramer who passed away last fall.

As always, you can listen to it out before the KeyBank Countdown to Kick-off on WTKA 1050AM tomorrow, or click play now:

 

You can hear all of the  This Week… clips here.

image For more on Kramer’s life, check out his book, co-written with Dan Ewald, That’s Just Kramer!

** One last chance to help out – the Walk is Saturday August 6th.  A HUGE thanks for all the support to date.  $1225 $1480 raised so far!  A big thanks to Craig Ross for the impromptu donation at the media event, and all the readers and my blogging brothers who have helped out in one way or another.

Folks occasionally ask how they can help support this site.   Here’s a big way:

On August 6, 2011 I return to the MSU campus for this year’s JDRF walk to cure diabetes. Yes, this event is in Spartan Country but this is not an green and white cause–in fact you may know that Bo Schembechler participated in the Ann Arbor JDRF walk and was a big advocate of diabetes research and education. 

I learned about this horrible disease when my nephew Jack was diagnosed at age 3.  If you want a sense for what life is like with Type 1, watch this short video that Jack helped put together.

All this said, I need some air cover.  Here’s how you can help me:

jdrf jug

Hail the Blue team, prevailing 38-30 in a fast-paced, down-to-the-wire game.   Captain Jim Conley and his crew had better quarterback play and MVP Alijah Bradley who made several fine catches and runs.

In true Michigan form, the game was rife with controversy, from questionable TD calls (players crossing the line without their flags?) and a suddenly frozen clock at the end (Spartan Bob?):

 

A few photos:

001 - brintonJim Conley with QB Spencer Brinton and #7 can still toss it

  001 - jansen $ Wow – Jansen cleans up nice.  Getting ready for the BTN broadcast

001 - mvp

 001 - radioIra and Steve in radio booth

001 - refs 
“He was down!”  Much controversy as usual.

 001 - td1

Touchdown

001 - team photo 1
Big turnout for the alumni game .

 
001 mvp

     The MVP trophy – (?) – I hope my man Bradley drives a semi or a Hearse

001 scoreboardNew scoreboards pending

 

001- butch Captain Conley – he ALWAYS starts (and did again today)

02. April 2011 · Comments Off on The House that Jack Built: The Ultimate Wolverine Den · Categories: 2011 · Tags: , , , , ,

[Ed. This ran in GoBlueWolverine Mag a couple months back.  I thought I’d republish it here given that the American Pickers are coming to town.]

display_cases

There are a few places in Ann Arbor where you can view some of the finest Michigan football memorabilia in the land. If you can get inside, the museum at Schembechler Hall features helmets, jerseys and other relics from the early days of the program. Up on North Campus the wonderful archives at the U-M Bentley Historical Library contain an extensive array of documents, photos and news clippings covering the history of Michigan athletics.

Neither collection is quite like what lifelong Ann Arbor resident Jack Briegel has at his home. While most Michigan fans have some sort of shrine of collectibles dedicated to their beloved football program, it’s doubtful anyone has approached this level. In fact when a university-sponsored contest was held years back to find the ‘Ultimate Wolverine Den’, they probably had an easy time naming Briegel the winner.

jack_briegel

I visited Briegel at his home this fall to get a tour and chat with him about his hobby. He took me straight downstairs and into a corridor flanked with framed photos signed by players and coaches—primarily but not limited to Wolverines. In a section dedicated to the winningest coaches of all time, Briegel even includes autographed shots of <gulp> rival coaches Lou Holtz and Woody Hayes. “Only Lou would sign over his nose,” Briegel joked, referring to the curious placement of Holtz’s signature on his photo.

Once you make it through the hall of photos you enter a room containing the cornerstone of Briegel’s collection—the ticket stubs. He’s gathered hundreds of the ducats from 1896 to the present day and he has them neatly assigned inside sixteen beautifully prepared glass cases aligned in chronological order. It’s a museum-quality arrangement and for fans of the history of this program, it’s breathtaking.

The ticket collection is extensive but not quite complete, at least to someone as passionate about his hobby as Briegel. While it’d be impossible to find every ticket in Michigan football history (certainly many from the 1800s and early 1900s don’t even exist), he is close to gathering up every stub, home or away since Michigan Stadium was opened in 1927. All told he’s missing just a handful stubs from this span believe it or not, just one from the hundreds of home games that have been played at the Big House.

1943gap_thumb

That elusive piece to the Michigan Stadium puzzle? The ducat to the 1943 Western Michigan contest. The tickets for that September 25, 1943 game actually list Michigan State as the opponent. But the Spartans did not field a team that season as it was common for teams to shut down their football squads that year due to obligations to the war effort.

1943MichiganState_thumb 

Folks seemed to have better things to do that fall day as just over 14,000 bothered to show up, and apparently it wasn’t memorable enough for many fans to bother to hang onto their stubs.

Briegel, now 75, has lived in Ann Arbor his entire life and began collecting memorabilia at a young age. He grew up near the stadium and that’s really when he started gathering Wolverine relics.  Ironically, Briegel used to enter games as a youngster without a ticket!

“We used to sneak in. A lot of times ticket takers would just wave us in,” he recalled with a smile. Back in those days the Big House was frequently a mostly empty house.

I asked if he had a favorite amongst the hundreds displayed on his walls. “This is real hen’s tooth,” he told me, motioning to the difficult-to-find 1927 Ohio Wesleyan ticket, the first game played at Michigan Stadium. He’s also fond of the tickets to the doubleheader games played during the Great Depression. Believe it or not, from 1929-1931 the athletic department actually scheduled the Wolverines to play a pair of games on the day of the season opener.

Representatives of the current athletic department are aware of his collection, especially those at the great U-M Bentley Library. This summer the library contacted Briegel for permission to feature a few of his items in the program for the stadium rededication game against Connecticut. “I was truly honored,” Briegel told me of the request, as he was thrilled for the opportunity to reciprocate some of the help that he’s received from folks like Bentley curators Greg Kinney and Brian Williams.

The Bentley helped Briegel was after he came into possession of probably the most unique and valuable piece in his collection. On display inside a glass coffee table is a menu from a special send-off dinner for Fielding Yost’s remarkable 1901 team, as they were about to depart for the first Rose Bowl. The menu was signed by everyone at the party including Point-A-Minute legends Willie Heston, Neil Snow, “Boss” Weeks along with Yost, the coaching staff and members of the athletic department. It’s remarkable.

jack2

To identify the authors of the signatures, Brieg el sought the help of Kinney along with fellow collector Dennis Dail. Eventually they nailed all but one of the autographs. Speaking of that menu, Yost’s men were treated like royalty that night. They dined on several courses in a feast that included little neck clams, oyster patties, filet of beer, roast turkey, sweet potatoes, fresh peas, strawberry ice cream and “assorted cake”. With full bellies, Yost, Heston and crew headed off to Pasadena where they crushed Stanford 49-0, rounding out a truly perfect season where they outscored opponents 550-0.

Briegel is retired these days, having worked 23 years for book manufacturer Braun-Bromfield before co–founding Saline-based printing company McNaughton and Gunn. Since he’s around the house a bit more these days, naturally I asked Briegel how his wife Jeannette feels about the collection. “She tolerates it,” he told me with a laugh. But he added that there’s a strict rule in place–the memorabilia doesn’t make it past the basement door to the main level. When the couple added onto their house in the 1990s they also built out the basement, allowing Briegel more room to house his award-winning shrine. It should be noted that one wall downstairs is reserved for “memorabilia” of his grandchildren and family, including several medals earned by his granddaughter, a well-decorated gymnast.

For the past several years he’s used his own season tickets to extend his collection and he prefers to have the full ticket intact for his display. Before the dawn of barcode scanners at Michigan Stadium (a couple years ago) Briegel used to negotiate with attendants to allow his tickets pass through the gates in one piece. If he got resistance from the ticket taker, he’d summon a manager and explain how serious he was about this hobby. “I was always able to talk my way in,” Briegel told me. While he doesn’t have this issue at the Big House anymore, he still occasionally has to do the dance when passing through the gates for away games.

As far as plan for collections down the road, Briegel is unsure. Neither his son Jeffrey nor daughter Judy has expressed a deep desire to continue the collection. “I wouldn’t mind a lot of it going to Bentley Library,” he told me. He’s taken steps to ensure that wherever the items end up, they’ll all be in good shape. Beyond protecting each item in glass or a frame, he’s installed special lighting along with smoke and motion detectors to monitor his precious den.

In the meantime, Briegel got work to do to fill those few empty slots in his display cases and he says regularly monitors the latest eBay auctions. I’m guessing it won’t be long until he finds that elusive 1943 ticket and I’d love to be there when he slides it into that empty slot on his wall.